Are MMA fighters getting smarter?

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AchillesHeel
3/5/07 1:26:06PM
A trend I'm seeing - or at least one I think I'm seeing - is fighters finding success by implementing multi-faceted plans of attack, and specifically targeting their opponents' weaknesses. Dan Henderson, Nick Diaz, Georges St. Pierre, and Randy Couture are the four biggest, recent examples, but there might be others.

Is this a trend, or just a coincidence?

Physical tools and technical skill were obviously a big part of those guys' successes, but they also complemented those things with a seemingly well-thought-out game plan. Maybe guys have been doing this all along, and we've just seen a run of success in marquee fights by guys who happened to use crafty strategies.

Or maybe the technical and physical tools have become so common that fighters are forced to develop another weapon to move to the next level. 10-12 years ago grappling technique separated (many) contenders from pretenders; now everybody practices grappling in addition to stand-up. 5-6 years ago conditioning and physical fitness and the ability to cut weight became an advantage; now everybody works on strength and stamina and tries to fight at their lowest reasonable weight.

Maybe the next step in the evolution of fighters is a complex, versatile, and assertive game-plan; sort of a "combined arms blitzkrieg" strategy, if you're familiar with military theory or history.



EDIT: Oops. Put a thread in the wrong forum again. This should probably be in The Lounge.
madmarck
3/5/07 2:41:44PM
I know one thing. Some people are too set in their ways to evolve (see Ross Pointon). While others just improve by leaps and bounds from 1-D fighters to extremly well rounded (see GSP and KOS).
pv3Hpv3p
3/5/07 3:11:05PM
Good thread...

The beauty of MMA is that is is still a very very young sport and we all have front row seats to watch it change and grow into whatever it will become...

Striking is an almost natural human instinct when it comes to fighting and/or defending oneself... When the grapplers came into the sport in the early to mid ninties, they introduced technique that could very effectivley counter-balance an opponents striking... And then it evolved from there...

The more fighters that are cmpetent and comfortable with a growing variety of techniques and fight styles, in turn means that the actual gameplan and it's execution becomes more vital in being successful in MMA....

IMO, it's the next natural step in the evolution of the sport.
Lay_N_Pray
3/5/07 5:00:10PM
I think the point your making is exactly why there will be no more dominant champion. Once Fedor loses its anyones time in any division.

Liddell, Anderson Silva, and GSP are all excellent champions, but they all have at least one kryptonite...

Liddell I think would lose to Rashad...is Evans better...no, but that does not mean he couldnt win. I think Shad would just wrestle the hell out of the match.

Silva has the best chance to dominate right now. Franklin is great but his style plays right into Silva no matter what adjustment Ace makes. I think a guy like Marquardt or Swick will have to take him down.

GSP could lose to Hughes or Penn if he decides to stay up there. Again GSP is more well rounded, but no fighter is above the gameplans you mentioned earlier. A good gameplan can win any fight as long as execution is there.
argile
3/5/07 5:26:35PM
Yes they are, The game evolutionized to the fullest and now they have to implement smart game plans to beat their opponent. I didn't really notice an intricate game plan in the Diaz/Gomi or Silva/Henderson fight; looked like they just wanted to brawl where ever the fight went. However Couture's game plan was on another level my friends who don't watch MMA were pointing out how smart Couture was during his fight with Sylvia.
waylon_o
3/5/07 5:45:07PM
A lot of guys now (especially in the regional shows in my area) are stating that their style is MMA when they're introduced and not kickboxing or jiu-jitsu. I think that has a lot to do with it...the sport is evolving with younger guys who learn it all at once....with that comes being able to exploit one's weakness...
hippysmacker
3/5/07 6:05:35PM

I think the point your making is exactly why there will be no more dominant champion. Once Fedor loses its anyones time in any division.

Liddell, Anderson Silva, and GSP are all excellent champions, but they all have at least one kryptonite...

Liddell I think would lose to Rashad...is Evans better...no, but that does not mean he couldnt win. I think Shad would just wrestle the hell out of the match.

Silva has the best chance to dominate right now. Franklin is great but his style plays right into Silva no matter what adjustment Ace makes. I think a guy like Marquardt or Swick will have to take him down.

GSP could lose to Hughes or Penn if he decides to stay up there. Again GSP is more well rounded, but no fighter is above the gameplans you mentioned earlier. A good gameplan can win any fight as long as execution is there.

Excellent points
I think this just another example of MMA's evolution. First fighter's started crosstraining in different disciplines. Then physical conditioning( specifically cardio) became so inportant. Followed by the importance of having a good camp to train with. Then skills at cutting to the right weight, being able to be as big as possible at the weight you choose to fight at became vital. Styles have always made fight's in any combat sport IMO. Now gameplanning has become vital. In Fedor's case I think he will likely retire in a few years, and will retire undefeated. Still, I think with the way the sport keeps growing we will eventually see a fighter with Fedor's skill's ( physically and mentally) who is much bigger and gifted athletically. It keeps happening in football, 10 years ago no one thought someone like Julias Peppers would exist . A 6 ft. 6 -290 lb. defensive end who runs a 4.6 forty without drugs. Now you have Calvin Johson ( Georgia tech receiver in this years draft) , a 6 ft. 5 -239 lb. wide reciver who runs a 4.35 forty. When moss came out at 6 ft. 4 200 lb. receiver who ran a 4.38 at the combine, people were stunned. In the case of Moss , he had a bad attitude, multiple off-the-feild incidents, was questionable over the middle, and hard to motivate. He still suffers from these deficiences , but has been dominant at times. Peppers and Johnson are purportedly the kind of guys you would want to date your daughter, and have no signifacant weaknesses . You look at a guys like Guillard, Riggs making weight and I'm astounded. I predict in the next 3 years someone incredibly gifted with all the required tools will come along and blow us away. Somebody with Fedor's mental and Physical skills and Brock Lesnar's athletic abilty under 265 lbs. will show up and we will be stunned.
madmarck
3/5/07 6:21:54PM
Great Post Hippysmacka. I didnt wanna quote cuz it would be so long. But yeah, MMA has evolved so much. From Brawlers learning to grapple. Then Grapplers in turn learnign striking. Then all of the healthiness came in with Frank Shamrock and MMA stopped being about Sumo vs Kickboxer. Nowadays every fighter trains in subs,wrestling, strikes, both offensivley and defensivly. You cant fight in MMA anymore and dominate with one skill soley. When every fighter in the UFC enter the cage 3 lines always pop up talking about the fighters strenghts. Always it says strong grappler or good striker and good subs. And its true. A fighter must be good and everything. Sure they can prefer something. But what if a anothe fighter is better at that ina fight. They have to change their gamplan very quickly. Martin Kampmann showed us just recently this fact. He likes to strike, but he was gettin destroyed on his feet. So what did he do? He took it down to the ground and showed some slick sub skills. He isnt the only guy either. Most fighters are doing this nowadays. Those that arent are being left in the dust and we dont see them much.
hippysmacker
3/6/07 3:53:38AM
I agree, just look at some of the old time legends who refuse to adapt. K. SHamrock/Severn/Royce were all studs of their time. They haven't grown a while though. The modern Mixed martial artist keeps learning and adapting.
migo
3/6/07 6:16:34AM
It's been around for a while. Randy was doing this for a while. He did it when he fought Belfort, he did it when he fought Rizzo, he did it when he fought Liddell the first time.

Dan Severn did it to beat Ken Shamrock (boring as hell, but he formulated a strategy around his strengths and his opponent's weaknesses that allowed him to get a win).

Sakuraba did this when he fought the Gracies, especially Royce by fighting to win 1 fight while Royce was trying to win the tournament.

Jeremy Horn did it to fight Liddell in the rematch, although it didn't work out for him he was still working a plan.

Frank Shamrock beat Tito by out-cardioing him.

Sakurai beat Pulver by using leg kicks and not fighting the boxing match Pulver wanted to fight.

Fedor did it for fighting Nogueira and Mirko, especially Mirko by going to train with Hoost.

Maurice Smith was one of the original guys with formulating strategies when he beat Mark Coleman.

Matt Hughes did it for Carlos Newton, he planned to take him down and grind out a decision and ended up getting a stoppage in the process.

I don't think overall they're getting smarter. The top guys were doing it at their respective times, but most of the fighters were doing the same thing that has worked for most of their opponents. Overall I think it's going to stay the same with the fighters with the innovative game plans rising to the top.
madmarck
3/6/07 9:59:25AM
Mo Smith was great at this. He did it to beat Marcus Silveira a BJJ HW king.
He helped Randy do it too. He was the Reason Randy beat Chuck in their first match. He also helped Randy beat Pedro Rizzo.
Jeffanori-Gomi
3/6/07 5:32:30PM
BJ Penn, GSP, Fedor are my top picks for most intelligent fighters
hippysmacker
3/7/07 3:19:07AM

Posted by Jeffanori-Gomi

BJ Penn, GSP, Fedor are my top picks for most intelligent fighters



I agree that Fedor is an extremely intelligent at picking and executing a gameplan.I would actually say he is the best at it . GSP has grown also since the first Hughes fight, but I have to disagree with BJ as great as he is. He seems too emotional and doesn't even have the mindset to train as hard as he could. I think Chuck sticks to and executes his gameplan very well. Also, I think Cro-cop has really made huge strides in this area since the Fedor fight. Aoki and LIndland are good at desinging and implementing their gameplans as well
madmarck
3/7/07 9:23:31AM

Posted by Jeffanori-Gomi

BJ Penn, GSP, Fedor are my top picks for most intelligent fighters



BJ never uses a gameplan. He is a very higly skilled striker and BJJ guy. He seems to know that and thinks so much of himself that he goes into fights without much training. I have heard that b4 both fights he had with Hughes that he only had 2 weeks of training. At the level of sport he is at that is nowhere near enough. I think if BJ were to crackdown and go all out in training he could win the WW or LW title in any org. I wish someone would bring back the old BJ, and find Vitor while you are at it.
mmadb
3/7/07 10:58:26AM
Well, if BJ didn't break a rib or whatever I'm pretty sure he beats Hughes in their second fight. Maybe he is that good.
AchillesHeel
3/7/07 12:42:48PM
I've never seen BJ execute an especially creative game-plan, I think he's just insanely talented. GSP is certainly an example of what I was talking about. I'm not sure about Fedor. Chuck is extremely predictable; he may indeed be a smart fighter, but he's rarely been forced to execute a clever strategy. Matt Hughes is another guy who's gotten by on talent and hard work, without needing to be "crafty" too.

Of course, all of those guys are such freaks of nature who can go pretty far, even without a solid game-plan. It will be interesting to see a fighter who can make some hay from an excellent strategy without notably good skills or physical tools. I can't think of one, off the top of my head.



EDIT: Actually, Randy Couture may indeed be just such a fighter. Is he, at age 43, stronger or faster, a better wrestler or boxer, than other UFC guys? Or is he just smarter? It's hard to say until he has another fight or two under his... er.. belt.
Jeffanori-Gomi
3/7/07 12:58:34PM

Posted by madmarck


Posted by Jeffanori-Gomi

BJ Penn, GSP, Fedor are my top picks for most intelligent fighters



BJ never uses a gameplan. He is a very higly skilled striker and BJJ guy. He seems to know that and thinks so much of himself that he goes into fights without much training. I have heard that b4 both fights he had with Hughes that he only had 2 weeks of training. At the level of sport he is at that is nowhere near enough. I think if BJ were to crackdown and go all out in training he could win the WW or LW title in any org. I wish someone would bring back the old BJ, and find Vitor while you are at it.



But maybe having no gameplan is a gameplan!!!!!

Be like water
-Bruce Lee
migo
3/8/07 6:37:08PM
BJ said he prepared for the position he got stuck in against Hughes in the second fight but couldn't because of the seperated rib. That sounds like preparation to me.
MethodMan
3/9/07 8:44:02AM
BJ seems to be very creative and able to adapt and go for things that maybe do not come up in training. Plus he does train what he loves (the ground game) hard, but perhaps is not as keen on the stand up or cardio work that would definatly elevate him to the top of his weight devision. In fact BJ is probably the smartest fighter since he often fights a bigger better trained (in the athletic sense) and pulls of a win or at least an exciting and close match before an injury. If he is not using a clever plan then what is he using cause I want some of it !!!!!!!
hippysmacker
3/16/07 11:50:39AM

Posted by MethodMan

BJ seems to be very creative and able to adapt and go for things that maybe do not come up in training. Plus he does train what he loves (the ground game) hard, but perhaps is not as keen on the stand up or cardio work that would definatly elevate him to the top of his weight devision. In fact BJ is probably the smartest fighter since he often fights a bigger better trained (in the athletic sense) and pulls of a win or at least an exciting and close match before an injury. If he is not using a clever plan then what is he using cause I want some of it !!!!!!!



I thinking he's just using, skill, will and abilty. He has plenty of those no doubt, I just think he needs to train with a camp . If he was in a place where he wasn't the boss I think he would pushed to realize his potential.
migo
3/16/07 2:21:16PM
He trained with Matt Lindland and Randy Couture for his fight with Matt Hughes. That's exactly the right thing to do when you're fighting a wrestler like that. Most people who have opinions on BJ's training don't have much of a clue on what he actually does.
hippysmacker
3/17/07 7:28:24AM

Posted by migo

He trained with Matt Lindland and Randy Couture for his fight with Matt Hughes. That's exactly the right thing to do when you're fighting a wrestler like that. Most people who have opinions on BJ's training don't have much of a clue on what he actually does.



I actually knew who he trained with for that fight , and agree it was a smart move. Everyone knows he trained with Lindland before the GSP fight also. That's not my point, forgive me if I was unlclear. I 'll try to clarify now. Bj is not part of a team fulltime like Militech, Jackson, BTT, chutebox , Punishemnet etc. He has admitted he doesn't train the way other fighter's do on UFC all access. If he were part of a team where he trained year round, and had moral, mental support year round I think he would be better. These guys train regularly even when they don't have an upcoming fight, barring a rest immediately after a fight and injury. They step it up to training camp levels when a fight is imminent. Training 2 to 3 times a day the last 6 weeks before the fight get's them better prepared IMO. Maybe I'm wrong , but I think BJ is not living up to his potential. I think he could legitamately be the best at 155 and 170 if he were in optimimum shape. I know their are different ways to be a champion, but as BJ's record has demonstrated , his way isn't working right now. Back to back losses even to Hughes and GSP are still losses. I really beleive he could be the best if he wanted it enough.
migo
3/17/07 7:19:33PM
Miletitch guys are starting to get rusty, so training with a team isn't always the best thing. GSP doesn't train with a team and he's definitely at the top. He switches between camps. Randy Couture switches between camps depending on who he trains with. It's consistent with every team that they're strong for a while and then somebody passes them by. BJ is smart to pick training partners based on who he is going to fight. He's also smart to get a variety of training in. Matt Hughes has a big problem for his GSP rematch - he's the best wrestler at MFS so nobody is going to help him get better at wrestling, as long as he stays with MFS instead of switching teams like BJ does he's not going to win the rubber match.
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